Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver says he’s confident Matt Giteau will be able to play in next month’s Rugby Championship despite a tense stand-off with French club Toulon over his availability.
Toulon’s maverick owner Mourad Boudjellal is reportedly threatening to dock Giteau’s pay if he links up with the Wallabies despite World Rugby regulations requiring his release.
Pulver doesn’t think it will come to that, claiming discussions with Toulon are progressing well and that Giteau will join the Wallabies, who have already started training in Sydney.
“(World Rugby) regulation 9 is there for a reason and that’s to ensure that players are available for their country when they are called upon,” Pulver said.
“We are confident that the situation will be resolved with Matt and his club, without the involvement of World Rugby and Matt will join the Wallabies squad as soon as possible.
“If it doesn’t happen it would be a disappointing outcome for Matt personally, but also for Wallabies fans who would miss out on seeing one of our biggest stars in action in our three home Test matches.”
The Rugby Championship, which begins with a Bledisloe Cup blockbuster against the world champion All Blacks in Sydney August 20, clashes with the first eight rounds of the French Top 14 season, which is why Boudjellal is determined not to lose playmaker Giteau’s services.
Giteau, 33, is on a reported $1.9 million-per-season contract in France, meaning any withheld contract payments would amount to a hefty sum for the versatile 102-Test veteran.
World Rugby has the power to sanction any club that blocks or even discourages players from representing their country in accordance with Regulation 9 – however, the organisation has been historically weak on the issue, and it is not the first time Boudjellal has attempted to strong arm his club’s import players.
To play in last year’s World Cup, Giteau forfeited around $250,000 after reaching an agreement with Toulon to stop paying his salary.